The Fleetwood Park Dragons were breathing fire from outside the arc Saturday as they ended the Holy Cross Crusaders' two-year title streak in the championship final of the Surrey Firefighters Goodwill Senior Girls' Basketball Classic.
The Dragons bombed away from three-point land throughout the contest, negating any inroads made by the Crusaders under the rim en route to a 70-65 victory for their second title in the 11-year history of the event.
"This is a really big win for us moving forward," said Dragons acting coach Sharon Staples. "We're in such a difficult league that every game is important now. The Fraser Valley had eight of the top 15 ranked teams in B.C. so our league is incredibly tough. We have a good team but until you learn how to win tough games like this one today, it's hard to move forward. Our girls responded to the challenge today and showed that they are learning what it takes to win in big games."
The Dragons had to work hard to the Axe (elite) Division final, beating Elgin Park 6836 in their opener and then topping Lord Tweedsmuir 64-39 in the semifinals. On the other side of the draw, the Crusaders rolled over their opposition, thumping Panorama Ridge 91-16 and then North Surrey 97-21 to cruise into the final.
The championship game featured two teams playing distinctly different styles, with the Crusaders inside game taking on the Dragons and their love for the big shot from outside. It was a matchup that turned out to be one of the best finals in the history of the tournament.
Fleetwood Park made their mark early, hitting a barrage to threes to build a commanding 30-14 lead but the Crusaders settled down and began pounding the ball inside for first, second and third chance shots under the rim. By halftime the Crusaders had whittled the Dragons advantage down to 39-35.
"It was a great matchup," Staples said. "The first half was so much fun to watch; it was extraordinary. Hats off to Holy Cross because they were down by 15 at one point but they kept battling. They were able to get the ball inside and they rebounded really well. We had trouble getting the ball inside for whatever reason and we didn't get any second chance points, but we were on fire with the threes. We were actually a little bit afraid at halftime because it seemed like all of our points came off of threes and it's awfully hard to keep that up."
The Crusaders comeback continued in the second half as they finally caught and passed the Dragons. AT that point, both teams went into a shooting slump for several minutes before the Dragons broke loose with another flurry of threes to regain control of the contest.
Fleetwood Park finished the game with 14 treys in the contest, good for 42 points - more than half of their final total. Half of those bombs came off the fingertips of Khanna Shilpa, who finished with 25 points and was named the tournament's MVP.
Fleetwood's Simran Bir led all scorers in the game with 31 points. Nicole Vander Helm cued the response for Holy Cross with 20 points while Rachel Beauchamp chipped in with 16.
"We knew before the game that they had a couple of players who could hit the threes and sure enough, they came out red hot and hit a bunch of threes early," said Holy Cross coach Steve Beauchamp. "I think we expected them to cool off a bit but they certainly didn't slow down much.
They missed a few early in the second half but then they got hot again down the stretch. There's no doubt that was the difference in the game.
"There were a couple of points in the second half where we had the lead and if we could have scored a couple of baskets it might have turned things in our favour. The ball didn't fall for us though and that allowed them to stay close."
In the tier 2 Ladder division final, Princess Margaret upended Enver Creek 44-35.